I am addicted to food and I don’t know what to do

I am addicted to food and I don’t know what to do

Hello. I’m Benjamin Wagner, this is my blog and today, I’m going to open up a little.

For as long as I can remember, I have been fat. I have recently aged enough to be called ’27 years old’ and there isn’t a time that I haven’t been conscious about the state of my body. According to my parents, I wouldn’t eat vegetables as a baby so they just gave me chocolate and cheese.

Yep. That’s worked out well.

Regardless, as the single-digit years passed by and I reached the double digits and the dreaded teen days, it became apparent to me that, despite the appearance of myself and my family, we weren’t… normal. We were large. We were huge. We were…fat. I was and still am fat.

By the age of 14, I was 14 stone. I gained a stone a year up until I was 16. By 17, I was 22 stone. By this point, I was even larger than my largest family member. But this was just accepted as normal. Instead of trying to dive into what my problems were, I ate. I ate 5 meals a day some days. Some days I managed to eat 9000 calories, spend 2 excruciating hours on the toilet before then repeating the same formula the following day.

I even stole money from my parents and other family members to fuel my habit. I would do anything to fuel my habit and whatever I needed to get through the day. Even after leaving college and entering the workplace, the same cycle would continue. By this time I was at least cognizant that I had a problem but still couldn’t pinpoint how to fix it. I would diet. I would fail. I would spiral. I would…

I would contemplate suicide.

I was always too scared of death to take many steps along this path but those thoughts have always been there. They still are. On the 26th of December this year, I stood on my roof and looked out at the world. I thought that just one step… one step and all this pain and suffering could be over. For good.

But thankfully this isn’t a suicide note.

That’s not what I want. It has never been what I have wanted. I don’t want to die. I simply wish to stop… feeling as powerless as I do. And yes, this happened on Boxing Day. Emotional issues don’t take a break for Christmas, I’m afraid. In fact, mine tend to flare up every year around this time due to the spirit of excess my family revels in. To quote my father:

“It’s Christmas. You’re supposed to overeat!”

And that’s what he believes. And the pressure to conform to this familial norm is suffocating. I’m now 27, still living with my parents (due to Covid and University, but it is still factual), still suffering from the same problems I had 10 years prior.

That’s 10 years. At best, that is 10% of my life. More realistically 15%. And I have very little to show for it. I have tried to be open about my problems to family and the odd few I can call friends but feel as if I might just have been dealt a bum hand. Sure, my family on the surface act supportive and pretend to care.

Heck, maybe they do.

Maybe it’s just ignorance. I have been told on multiple occasions that, even at my size, I am not eating enough and I should be appreciative to receive this food. I am, I don’t see how eating a whole chicken instead of a single drumstick makes me unappreciative, but I digress.

Sometimes they even ask how I am when they see me go through an episode like this. But this is very much just for show. It’s a quick pop your head in the door, ignore the answer they are given and, often, talk about food anyway. I am bitter. I don’t blame other people for my problems. I am very much both the cause and the solution. But am I bitter about the way that people who say they care about me treat my suffering. Absolutely. Bitter as a bullet to the heart. And that resentment is unlikely to ever fade.

Knowledge is not the problem. It’s not for want of trying either. I have researched extensively, spoken to doctors, family and charities and never been given an answer that doesn’t involve being told I just need to try harder. I hate a lot of things about myself. One of the few things I like is how determined and dogged I can be once deciding on something. Working hard is not something I shirk and my faith in humanity decreases a little more each time I open up to anybody about my problem.

Food is something I constantly think about. Morning to night. Even in dreams. The pressure is constant and unrelenting. What can I do? It’s not like I can just go cold turkey and stop eating. Unlike other addictions, food is something that every human and animal must consume in order to keep living. And that is very much a state I desire to continue in. Speaking of other addictions…

Think a little about what I have written above and replace any reference to food or hunger or eating with drugs. Or alcohol. Or gambling. Or smoking. They fit well, don’t they? I don’t understand why food addiction isn’t recognised as a problem. It can cause similar emotional outbursts to other addictive substances. Food addiction exists. FOOD ADDICTION EXISTS. I could go into far more detail about how this addiction manifests itself and how I find my willpower and confidence fade with each passing minute. For example, there was cake in the fridge today and I counted each time I thought about eating the whole thing and slapped myself lightly on my wrist each time. I woke up at 9am and wrote this at 6:30pm. In that time, I thought about drowning myself in the chocolatey river 46 times.

46 times.

This happens with such a varied number of foods that ignoring the problem is just impossible. Which makes the accepted solution much more painful to accept.

If you go to the doctors with an alcohol or drug problem, they will usually put you on some sort of replacement substance to wean you off the addictive product. For food, they just tell you to try harder and stop eating as much. How does that seem fair? We share the same shame; the same compulsions. The same desire to give in just one more time. If you told an alcoholic to stop drinking, how successful would that be? People addicted to something usually understand the problem. I certainly do. It doesn’t make fixing it any easier and the way that obesity and food dependency is simply shrugged off makes me feel sad. No funny words or clever thesaurus usage; it just makes me sad.

So let’s bring it back to my current situation. I have been fighting my way through the latest diet with some limited success. But it is a success. I have lost about a stone since the beginning. Up until the 24th December. 3 days of nothing but secret food binges, crying into a bowl of stuffing and shitting half the Ganges out of my ass.

Christmas. A time when miracles happen.

Photo by Irina Iriser on Pexels.com

In all seriousness, this is a common occurrence and is not season-related. Honestly, after progressing for three weeks, I suppose I was due a setback. 3 weeks of ultra disciplined behaviour is all I can manage. By that point, the temptation grows as the willpower wains and I briefly forget the large, imposing goal I have set out in front of me. And that goal brings me to where I am now.

I’m standing at a crossroads right now and the choices are… not ideal.

Option 1 would be me continuing with my degree and taking my year abroad in Japan in September as originally planned. I still aim to be 90kg when I make the trip but this already lofty goal is looking more unachievable by the second. I could of course go the way I am now but I believe that my own mental stigma would in all likelihood tarnish any good memories that the experience could provide. I am under no illusion that losing weight would make me happy. Of course not. It would hopefully be a catalyst to becoming a more confident, happier human being but is by no means the end goal. This makes option two more… appealing.

Option two would involve me dropping out of my degree course and attempting to get the help I need. I have been through NHS programmes multiple times and have been shocked about the complete neglect and lack of care they show to those they are trained to treat. 3 years ago I learnt I was a type 1 diabetic. This had been misdiagnosed a number of times, most confusingly as an addiction to paracetamol; a painkiller I scarcely take unless the pain is unbearable. The latest NHS programme I have been recommended to asked me to fill in a questionnaire detailing my problems and how I would like to proceed. I sent this in October and have heard… nothing. I sent a chase-up email and got…nothing. Because of this, I would need to self-fund my own treatment; with weight loss surgery very much being the target. I believe that I will always have these urges to eat and soothe whatever stress I am under. I don’t think addiction just disappears no matter how much one prays or hopes. So, for that reason, I believe that actively reducing the size of my stomach through surgery is the only way I can see myself conquering what poisons me. Much like a car, I need a limiter so that I don’t explode. And time is ticking.

I like stories with happy endings. I tend to only watch anime or television programmes that have low stakes or that I have researched extensively beforehand. Unfortunately, my story doesn’t have a happy ending. I have no cure for mine or anybody else’s ailments. I have no magic wand or special chant to make you feel just a little bit more human. I still feel inhuman. Lesser than those around me because of my addiction. There will be no rallying call to ensure you that the worst is behind me. I’m still going to keep fighting, keep trying to stay on top of this likely lifelong issue. I have made no decisions but both of these come with drawbacks. I have spent the last 7 years of my life studying Japanese. To give the degree I have worked so hard for up is a decision that would likely crush me in more ways than I could eloquently explain. But ignoring the problem hasn’t gotten me very far now. I have to fight this on my own and make the choice of a lifetime.

For those of you who read this far. Thank you. Thank you for sitting through the emotionally charged and most likely error-riddled contents of my latest breakdown. The original purpose of this blog was not supposed to be posting personal problems for everybody and nobody to see but here we are, I suppose. I am sure that, in a day or few, I will be motivated enough to put these problems on the back burner for another week or two, churn out some more content about a J-Drama I pretend to understand or video game I wish I had made but, for now…

I am Benjamin Wagner and I… reluctantly, endorse this… this confession?

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